As heavy rains continue across the country, four major hydropower plants in Laos have had to open their reservoir gates to release water. This is done to ensure that a dam is not damaged due to water overflowing from the reservoir.
Due to the ongoing monsoon rains, eight provinces in Laos have reported heavy flooding and landslides this year, and hydropower dams in Xayaboury, Luang Prabang, and Khammouane have released water into the river.
The Nam Houng 1 Hydropower
The hydropower project in Xayaboury, located about 30 kilometers from Xayaboury District, opened its gates on Monday to release water and prevent it from overflowing into the river basin, as informed by the operator who ensured the process’s safety during the discharge.
Nam Khan 2 and 3 Hydropower Plants
The two hydropower plants will be releasing water from 6 to 12 August, according to a notice issued by the dam operator on Sunday, with the 3 Nam Khan Hydropower increasing the capacity of the release from 15 to 60 MW.
During the release, the water at the end of the hydropower project will rise to 2 mm within 24 hours, and the dam operators have said that any changes to the release will be communicated five hours in advance.
Residents downstream of Xieng Ngarn District, Luang Prabang, have experienced flooding following the notice, with one resident recording the profuse gust of water flowing out from the dam. Additionally, Luang Prabang Water Supply State Enterprise has announced the suspension of water supply to the Xieng Ngarn District due to the flood inundated a power control facility.
Nam Hinboun Downstream Hydropower
Some residents have expressed concerns about increasing levels of water in the dam as the province itself is experiencing heavy flooding.
“The situation at Nam Hinboun Downstream is quite concerning as the water is spilling over the other side, around the dam, in an area not meant to experience any overflow. There is a risk the dam will be damaged by this,” said a hydropower expert who requested anonymity.
In response to safety concerns, Mr. Somphone Oudone, General Manager of Rasita Power Company’s dam stakeholder, told the Laotian Times that the seven gates must be opened to spill the water due to rising water levels in the Mekong River.
“The areas near the hydropower plant may have flooded, but there are no problems with the dam,” Mr. Somphone Oudone said.
Xayaboury Dam May Release Water, Says Mekong River Commission
The Xayaboury Hydropower operator has informed nearby residents that it may release water from its dam over the coming days and downstream communities should be prepared for the changes in water levels in the river, according to a notice to the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines.
“Due to continuous and heavy rainfall in Laos affected by the Khanun tropical storm and water discharge from other upstream hydropower plants, the inflow at the Xayaboury dam has increased,” the ministry said in a notice.
The operator has warned the communities both upstream and downstream of the dam to be prepared for further changes in river levels after short periods of water release. The same operator added that it had already activated the appropriate emergency action plan.
Accoding to a forecast by the MRC, until 12 August, water levels in the lower Mekong River Basin from Luang Prabang in Laos to Khong Chiam in Cambodia are expected to increase significantly, from 0.5 meters to 3.0 meters.
According to the data from Electricity Du Laos, the hydropower plants of Xeset 1, Xeset 2, Nam Mang 3, and Nam Song are also at full water storage capacity at the moment and might need to release water soon.